Pyaasa allowed me to experiment-V K Murthy
Posted January 22, 2010on:
V K Murthy is the first cinematographer to be awarded the Dadasaheb Phalke Award. He talks about his journey and working with Guru Dutt, who was irreplaceable for him
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|V K Murthy|
V K Murthy’s once steady hands have captured the most beautiful images for Indian cinema. He is the man who turned legendary filmmaker Guru Dutt’s creativity into on-screen magic.
That shot in Kaagaz Ke Phool where Guru Dutt and Waheeda Rehman are bathed in white light as Geeta Dutt’s melancholy Waqt ne kiya… rings out became Murthy’s calling card as a cinematographer. A pioneer of lighting techniques, Murthy is credited to have turned the technique and technology into art. This year he takes home the prestigious Dada Saheb Phalke Award (the first cinematographer to win this award) as a befitting tribute.
His fragile 86-year-old frame struggled to pose for the barrage of photographers that laid siege to his Chamrajpet home in Bangalore, as the news spread. But the cinematographer understood the challenge. “It is difficult to take a shot sometimes,” he said. He rolls out his story…
• If I were an actor
As a 12-year-old, I wanted to become a Hindi film hero and even took Hindi lessons so I could speak clearly. But at 16, reality dawned and I realised I did not have the personality of an actor. But I remained fascinated by the art of story telling and its technique. At that time, S J Polytechnic was the only college in South East Asia to have a course in cinematography and I enrolled for it. When I went to Bombay, it was a struggle to find a footing in the Hindi film industry. I didn’t know where my life was heading. Maharana Pratap gave me my first break where I assisted cinematographer Dronacharya. Yet it was Fali Mistry who honed me in the art. To this day, I am yet to see a more talented cinematographer than him.
Leading ladies were all stunning then, you could never pick one as a favourite. However, I was a favourite with them if their compliments were anything to go by. Meena Kumari always told me, ‘Murthysaab, nobody makes me look as beautiful as you.’ Madhubala was, of course, a beauty.
|Chaudhvin ka chand|
• Who needed colour
I was assistant cameraperson for the film Baazi and had suggested a particular shot for a musical bit in a song. Rathra, who was the cameraperson for the movie and leading man Dev Anand’s cousin, said that the shot could not be done so. I asked for permission to shoot it myself and in the third take, we got it right. Guru Dutt asked me to be his cameraman from then on.
When I began my career, we were in the black and white era which was indulgent to one’s creativity. Any cinematographer will tell you that black and white is the best way to shoot. It allows you to experiment with lighting and shot break-ups. But when I shot the song Chaudhvi ka chand in technicolour, it amazed me to see the difference.
For my own
I have shot just one movie Huvu Hannu and even acted in it. Why I did not become a more integral part of the Kannada film industry is a question you need to ask the producers of that time who never invited me. They said I was too expensive.
• Guru Dutt, magic and movies
|Waqt ne kiya…|
Though Dutt and me were from Karnataka, oddly enough we always communicated in Hindi. We were individually creative and worked very well with each other. Though many consider Kaagaz Ke Phool to be his finest, I personally am a fan of Pyaasa. The writing, the scenes, the sequence are par excellence and gave me the best platform to experiment.
While making Kaagaz Ke Phool, the two of us were sitting in the studio as the late afternoon sun poured in through the ventilators of the room. It struck both of us that this would make a great shot. When we shot Waqt ne kiya, I had used mirrors for the effect and the final product was stunning, capturing the pathos of the song beautifully.
We had shot one scene for a new movie Gauri, with his wife Geeta in the lead, when he died. I had lost a friend and creative soulmate. I have worked with Shyam Benegal on his Discovery of India series, Govind Nihalani and Pramod Chakravarthy who I was very fond of. But there was no other Guru Dutt for me.